When Brandon Cox began planting Grace Hills Church in Bentonville, AR, he didn’t want to drop a ton of money on massive but impersonal means of announcing our arrival. So they used Facebook.
In a recent blog post, Brandon wrote:
- We started with two couples (including the Cox’s). We spent $0 on traditional advertising but had 35 at our first gathering in July of 2011.
- We grew to approximately 80 within six months by word-of-mouth and while spending $0 on traditional advertising.
- We launched with 176 on our first Sunday, mostly gathered through Facebook, word-of-mouth, and search engines.
Sounds like a pretty good start.
So how did they do it?
Brandon included some great tips!
1) Start with a website
“It’s a content hub, of sorts. Sometimes your goal is to move people from social platforms to your site. Sometimes it’s the opposite. And sometimes they simply co-exist for different purposes, but having a hub on the web is essential.”
2) Use Facebook Pages Well
A few key tips:
- Understand the difference between a profile (which is for people) and a page (which is for brands, organizations, celebrities, etc.).
- Use your personal Facebook profile to connect with new people in your community, people who get in touch about your plant, etc.
- Write often. At least daily.
- Converse. Answer messages, reply to comments, and be helpful to those with questions.
3) Provide Easily Sharable Content
“You are a content-producing master! … We take our messages and break them into bite-sized pieces and share them as a daily devotional on both our website and our Facebook page… All of the content a church produces can be distributed to the volunteer army of people in the pews to equip them to share their faith, their church, and their story.”
5 Things Brandon & Grace Hill are NOT Doing
There are a lot of churches that are “on” social media but seeing little to no results. What separates Grace Hill from others? As I read Brandon’s blog post, I noticed they are NOT doing several things that a lot of churches do.
- Using social media purely to broadcast & promote the church and its activities
- Putting up a wall of separation between personal and church social media
- Viewing online and offline as two separate worlds
- Leaving the church’s social media to young volunteer
- Expecting the church to reach people directly
5 Things Brandon & Grace Hill ARE Doing
In contrast, here’s the approach they are taking.
1) Using social media to connect, listen, start conversations and answer questions. It’s less about marketing and more about building relationships.
2) Integrating personal and church social media. Many pastors are OK with their church using social media, but they personally don’t want any part of it. It’s messy, time-consuming, leads to interruptions. But guess what? True community and genuine friendships are… messy, time-consuming, and lead to interruptions. If you truly believe in community, then that means personally connecting and developing friendships with people inside and outside your church.
3) Integrating online and offline worlds. Brandon writes, “I’m a big believer that you can initiate relationships online. I also think it’s important to find ways to go offline, to meet face-to-face, to serve others in a hands-on way.” The reverse can happen as well; you can also meet someone face to face and then take that relationship deeper by connecting online.
4) Being led by the senior pastor. Social media is not an afterthought for Grace Hill, but a strategic part of their culture. It’s part of the way they do evangelism, discipleship, organize volunteers and more. That doesn’t mean the senior pastor has to do all his church’s social media (anymore than he has to do all the evangelism, discipleship or organizing of volunteers), but it does mean he needs to give it direction and make sure it aligns with the church’s vision and values.
5) Empowering the people to reach their friends. Many people view church social media as a way for the church to reach people directly. In contrast Grace Hill provides the content – devotionals, personal stories, pictures – their people can comment on, like and share with their friends.
Brandon provides lots more insight in his post Going Social to Plant Churches. I high encourage you to read it.
If you’re leading communications and social media for your church, I encourage you to connect with Grace Hill and Brandon Cox on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. Observe firsthand how they are doing social media effectively. As they say, often more is caught than taught.